Hotels and online reviews: an overview of good practice

hotel-reviews

Being engaged with an audience on social media, and particularly on review websites, can be a winning public relations strategy for a company, but doing it properly can make the difference between gaining public support and ruining a company’s reputation. This is especially true when hotels respond to customer reviews online. Josiah Mackenzie, an author at reviewpro.com, has even published A Hotel’s Guide to Responding to Online Guest Reviews. In it, he lists a few basic tips for hotels to keep in mind when replying to customer feedback:

Do:

  • Thank the reviewer for the feedback
  • Respond to any positive comments
  • Apologize for any legitimate negative experience
  • Explain the steps you’ll take to prevent that from happening again
  • Allow the guest to contact you offline if follow‐up discussion is needed

Don’t:

  • Take it personally. Avoid angry, abusive responses—or any type of personal attack
  • Question the reviewer’s legitimacy.
  • Reply with a discount or coupon
  • Use corporate‐speak that contains no meaningful information

In fact, knowing how to properly respond to online reviews (along with the obvious exceptional guest service, location, and overall room cleanliness) can earn a hotel a coveted TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice award. ReviewTrackers.com recently published a case study that examines how some hotels put these and similar tips into practice in order to keep their clients satisfied and coming back.

For example, one guest who stayed at the Grand Del Mar in San Diego, California, took to TripAdvisor and wrote they were:

“Very disappointed in the service, food quality and experience overall. In fact the only reason I didn’t give it only 1 star is because I visited on Memorial Day weekend so I am trying to cut them some slack. Don’t bother eating anything from one of their hotel restaurants. Beyond bad, although I should mention that the Addison restaurant which is on their grounds was closed so I am not talking that place in particular.”

The hotel responded and apologized in a very professional manner:

“Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable review. The experiences you described are not characteristic of the level of service our colleagues strive to provide, and we apologize your stay was unsatisfactory. Your feedback was shared with our team, and we look forward to the opportunity to welcome you back and exceed your expectations.”

The hotel addressed the issue the guest raised in their review, and relayed their feedback to those concerned in an attempt to make things right.This type of practice earned the Grand Del Mar a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice award in 2012, and is an excellent example of great public relations.

On the flipside, hotels also need to know how to respond to positive feedback in order to further increase their reputation. ReviewTrackers.com also published a second case study about The Landmark London, a luxury hotel in London, England, and how they deal with both positive and negative reviews.

One guest who stayed at the hotel while attending the 2012 Summer Olympics wrote on TripAdvisor: “The service and staff could not have been more accommodating, especially the concierge. The location was excellent. Close to the tube and walking distance to Baker Street, Bond Street and The Marble Arch area. Have stayed at other 5 star hotels in London and would stay at The Landmark again.”

The hotel manager at The Landmark replied: “Thank you for selecting The Landmark during the London 2012 Olympics and we were delighted to read you enjoyed our location. It was very pleasing to read your comments, particularly, concerning our concierge team and we hope you enjoyed a very memorable time in London. It will be our pleasure to welcome you back.”

This kind of personal touch (addressing a specific compliment left by the reviewer) would make any guest feel welcome, and would keep them coming back. It also has the added benefit of solidifying a hotel’s positive image, and in the case of The Landmark, it earned them a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award in 2012 in the luxury hotels category.

As we can see, hotels that make use of the public relations strategy of addressing online reviews in a positive, constructive, and professional manner can have tremendous benefits for them. Keeping guests happy and coming back, and sharing their experiences can certainly help a hotel keep their image and reputation worthy of a guest’s stay.

Have you ever had either a positive or negative experience at a hotel and written a review online about it? What did the hotel say or do about it? Leave a comment on this post. We’d love to hear your story.

Marc Viau

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Accommodating international customers

Having a successful international company means being accessible to different clients around the world. With each country there are different customs and means of connection. To become a truly successful international company, it is important to have these available for your customers.

When travelling it’s always important to make sure your credit cards will work where you are going. It is not only the responsibility of your clients to check, but the responsibility of travel companies to be able to accept a wide variety of payments. Having easily accessible booking options is an attractive feature for international clients. By offering the option of online payments through credit cards and debit, plus the option of purchasing over the phone, accommodates those who do not have access to the internet, or are unable to call your company to make bookings. To be a successful international company able to accommodate a wide variety of customers, it is important to offer different forms of payment.

Each culture and country has its own norms and traditions. It is extremely important to recognize and accept these sometimes uncommon norms in order to accommodate international customers. One of the easiest ways to start this is by having staff members who are fluent in several different languages. The Russian airline Aeroflot is accessible by 9 languages on their website. By offering this service to customers and clients, your company can expand their clientele and make them feel more comfortable traveling with you. Knowing you can easily speak with the staff makes customers feel not only more welcomed and understood, but also able to meet their needs.

Most companies in the travel industry offer meals to their travellers during longer trips. Airlines offer a selection prior to departing for their travellers to choose from, while train companies, such as Via Rail, offer a selection for their guest to choose from during their trip. Several airlines, including Air Canada and U.S. Airways, have also started offering specialty meals for their clients. No matter which form of travel your company specializes in, it’s important to offer meal selections for all sorts of dietary needs. There are vegetarians, vegans, those who eat gluten free meals, and there are religions that view some animals, like cows, as religious.

When it comes to advertising your company, it is important to be present over various mediums. Not all potential clients will have televisions, radios or check their emails. To ensure you reach all of your potential clients, it’s important to spread your marketing through a variety of channels. Having television commercials, radio commercials, notices through the mail, and a website ensures maximum potential to reach an audience.

Taking the time to provide these services to your current and future clients will make your business grow and ensure your customers enjoy their experience. Opening your business to include what is considered the norm in other countries across the world will make your company stand out in the travel industry. A large portion of public relations is listening to the clients’ needs and responding accordingly. One of the most important ways to do this is through accessibility, understanding of customs and providing a comfortable service to your clientele.

Tristan Hodgins

Are you a frequent-flyer? Add joining an airline loyalty program to the to-do list.

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Studies conducted by Aimia Inc., the owner of Aeroplan rewards and most loyalty programs in Canada, in 2012 showed that approximately 2.3 million rewards were issued to members, roughly a point per 14 seconds, including more than 1.6 million flights on Air Canada and Star Alliance carriers. They offer domestic travel and more than 1,000 destinations worldwide. In addition to flights, the 4.6 million active members also have access to redeem points for merchandise, hotel stays, and car rentals. All merchandise can be redeemed online at Aeroplan.com and items range from clothing to gift cards for Air Canada travel for others. Because Aeroplan is the oldest frequent-flyer program in Canada, they have several partnerships with financial institutions and credit cards where patrons receive points from purchases, such as Toronto Dominion banks, Scotia Bank, and Bank of Montreal. Porter, on the other hand, has not yet set up any partnerships with banks or other companies. While also flying with Star Alliance, Aeroplan members are able to redeem their points for seat upgrades or pre-boarding abilities. Within their loyalty program, there are different tiers of members who have traveled further than 25 kilometers, 35 kilometers, 50 kilometers, and 100 kilometers.

VIPorter, owned by Porter Airlines, competes against Aeroplan’s reward program. VIPorter is marketed towards clients as a faster and more convenient as it automatically starts accumulating points after five flights and your points expire only after four absent years of flying with Porter. VIPorter’s target audience is anyone who travels via plane, as it is directed towards creating a more luxurious, comfortable traveling experience with remarkable yet simplistic perks. Aeroplan’s target audience are business professionals and constant travelers, due to the complex nature of their rewards program, the expiry dates, and the loops one must jump through in order to sign up.

VIPorter is spoken about from the moment you enter the Porter lounge pre-boarding to the moment you land at your final destination to spark an interest in knowing more about the program. Porter hopes that the ease and experience of flying with Porter will drive clients to use the VIPorter program more often, in spite of the fact that individuals are automatically a member after their first flight. Their strategy has proven successful as Porter has opened more terminals throughout Canada and the United States faster than originally proposed in their expansion plans. One major differential between Porter and other airlines is Porter only offers one class; one that emulates first class, whether it is the private lounges, leg room between seats, or food. Therefore, VIPorter points cannot be redeemed for merchandise or upgrading seats, but can be put towards future flights. Porter chose to create their airline in this fashion because they believe individuals should be offered the same traveling experience, no matter what their situation.

Both Aeroplan and VIPorter are effective in promoting their programs while remaining free to use. Travelers with these companies should definitely take advantage of what they have to offer due to their inexpensive nature, and their ability to make traveling a more enjoyable experience.

James Birchall